Defense testimony about Arizona Child Protective Services’ role in the fate of the Payne children seemed to help the state more than the defense by showing that their mother appeared to be a better parent.
Defense attorneys for Christopher Mathew Payne called former CPS caseworker Cindy Graupmann to the stand Friday to discuss the situation that led to reforms in the state’s child welfare agency.
Payne is accused of abusing Ariana, 3, and Tyler Payne, 4, starving them to death and hiding their bodies in a storage unit. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty.
Payne has claimed that he kept the children, despite a court order that banned him from being with them, for their safety because their mother, Jamie Hallam, was abusing drugs and neglecting them.
Graupmann, who retired in September, testified she was assigned to investigate a neglect claim against Hallam in October 2005.
Graupmann testified that she saw Ariana and Tyler twice over a five-month span and they appeared to be healthy and well cared for.
In February 2006, despite no evidence that Hallam was using drugs or neglecting the children, Graupmann advised Payne to keep the children.
The defense also called a nurse practitioner who saw Ariana twice in 2004. The girl was behind on her immunizations and underweight after a bout with a lung infection, but otherwise OK, according to testimony.
After those witnesses, the defense rested.
Prosecutors called Richard Barcalow of Catalina, Hallam’s stepfather, as a rebuttal witness.
Barcalow said Hallam was a good mother and that the children were well-fed, well-clothed, playful and healthy in her care.
After the jury was dismissed for the weekend, defense attorneys asked Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard S. Fields to rule that the state hadn’t proved its case against Payne for first-degree murder, child abuse and concealment or abandonment of a body.
“The evidence is that Reina Gonzales (Payne’s live-in girlfriend) had the children during the day and was not feeding them,” Assistant Public Defender Rebecca McLean said. “She, in fact, caused the death of the Payne children.”
“It was his decision to keep them in the closet,” Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer argued. “He watched them as they slowly starved to death. He did not get help. They were abused, emaciated and dying. In his own words, he feared he would get in trouble (if he sought help for them).
“It was his conscious decision to allow them to die.”
Fields denied the motion.
“There is ample evidence that the defendant knew that his failure to feed, provide water or provide medical care or other care for the children” could have caused their deaths or serious physical injury, Fields ruled.
“There was testimony that these conditions such as dehydration and starvation are reversible medical situations,” Fields said.
Jurors will return Monday for final instructions and closing arguments.